Mike Goes to the Movies — Chronicle

There are few experiences in life more gratifying than going to see a movie in a theater. For two hours or so, you get to forget about everything else in the world and become engrossed in the story being played out before you in huge, crystal-clear high-definition. Every inch of your vision is saturated with colors and characters and the booming sound of the score and special effects blissfully invades your ears.

This is the reason I try to see as many movies as possible in the theater. Because of this preference, “Mike Goes to the Movies” will most likely become a staple of this blog. Hopefully some of my reviews can persuade others to see some of the great movies out there the way they are meant to be seen — on the big screen.

Fair warning: This review contains spoilers.

Seriously, where were these parties when I was in high school?

My inaugural movie for this column is one of the more fresh, fun and innovative movies I’ve seen in recent memory. On the surface, Chronicle is a superhero origin story about three boys — Andrew, the abused, tortured, uncool loner, Matt, Andrew’s cousin who has no idea who he’s trying to be, and Steve, the popular, overachieving, school president candidate. Circumstances, in this case a rave in an abandoned building out in the woods, bring the three boys together where they make an underground discovery that changes their lives. This discovery, an otherworldly, pulsating, crystalline web, knocks the boys unconscious when they touch it and blacks out the camera that Andrew uses to film the entire ordeal. A new camera and a few days later, and the boys are seen beaning each other with a baseball — WITH THEIR MINDS.

That’s where the fun really begins. The middle of the film follows the boys as they try to see just what they can do with their new powers, which includes a few hilarious scenes of them terrorizing customers at a toy store and confusing old ladies by moving their parked cars around. While these scenes are comical and provide necessary tension relief, it’s the story of Andrew’s downward spiral that really carries the movie. Andrew has a terrible home life — his father beats him and his mother is dying from an undisclosed illness. His time at school, where he’s unpopular and picked on constantly, isn’t much better. When Andrew discovers that he’s able to control his powers better than the other two boys, he gains some confidence and things start to improve for awhile…until he vomits when trying to hookup with a girl at a party. At that point, his relationship with the other two boys becomes strained and, when he discovers that his family doesn’t have enough money to keep his mother on medication, he begins to use his powers to steal and even kill.

Things get even worse after Andrew kills Steve by striking him with lightning in a storm of rage and then tries to hold up a gas station, which results in a huge explosion that lands Andrew in the hospital. Andrew goes berserk when he wakes to find his father yelling at him over the hospital bed. Matt senses that something is wrong and arrives at the hospital just in time to literally catch Andrew’s father, who Andrew tossed from the side of the hospital building. This is when one of the greatest fight scenes I have ever witnessed takes place. The next twenty minutes sees the two boys flying through the Seattle skyline, hurling each other into buildings and throwing vehicles at each other, all of which is caught on police and security cameras. The scene is incredibly Akira-esque, with Andrew bloodied and in hospital robes howling for everybody to just leave him alone while the cops and Matt try to reason with him. The climax to the fight is sudden, emotional, and perfect in its finality and the final minutes of the film following the battle are touching and conclusive while still leaving room for a future sequel.

The entire movie is shot in the found footage documentary style that has become so popular since the original Paranormal Activity. I don’t particularly like this film technique in many movies, but it worked here, mainly due to Andrew’s psychic powers being able to move the camera to different angles without being held, resulting in the feel that there were several Hollywood camera crews following the boys. This execution, along with the cuts to security and police cameras during the fight scene, brought a unique element to the genre that made it feel fresh and new again.

Although all the special effects are great, the reason this movie works is because of the portrayal of its two main characters.  Unknowns Dane DeHaan and Alex Russell bring brutality and realness to Andrew and Matt. DeHaan does a fantastic job of showing the pent up rage and unstableness of Andrew. It’s an impressive feat that, even after he racks up an insane body count, it’s difficult to see Andrew as the villain. Russell is great as Matt, struggling to find out who he is and where he fits in the scheme of everything. Matt starts out as pretentious and smug, but it’s really just a facade for the confusion of high school and the feelings he still holds for one of his ex-girlfriends. He really grows throughout the movie, becoming the responsible one of the group and doing what needs to be done in the final scene of the fight with Andrew. Even though I felt sorry for and liked Andrew’s character, I found myself cheering for Matt throughout the struggle.

Chronicle is easily the best film I’ve seen so far this year. It breathes new life into two stagnating genres and manages to be fast-paced and thought-provoking in its short 83 minute run time. If you’re a fan of superhero movies or want to see something with a slick script and some superb special effects, check this one out.

Sickest. Movie Poster. Ever.

Score: 8.72/10 — The extra .02 is for one of the sickest movie posters I’ve seen in a long time.

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